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Highlights

In response to the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes, Congress provided about $130 billion in disaster recovery assistance, including assistance for permanent housing. Congress has expressed an interest in how this assistance has been allocated to homeowners and rental property owners, particularly for state-administered programs. GAO's objectives were to review (1) how federal disaster-related assistance for permanent housing has been provided to homeowners and rental property owners, (2) the extent to which federally funded programs have responded to the needs of homeowners and rental property owners, and (3) the challenges that homeowners and rental property owners have faced in applying for and using federal assistance, and potential options for addressing these challenges. To address these objectives, GAO analyzed documentation for key programs and program data, and interviewed federal, state, and local officials regarding the challenges associated with these programs.

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Recommendations

Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status Comments
To the extent that the CDBG program continues to be the primary vehicle used to provide post-disaster assistance for permanent housing, Congress may wish to consider providing more specific direction regarding the distribution of disaster-related CDBG assistance that states are to provide for homeowners and renters. If Congress wishes to change the proportion of assistance directed to homeowners and rental property owners in future recovery efforts, Congress could, for example, require states to demonstrate to HUD that they are adequately addressing the needs of both homeowners and renters with their CDBG allocation and other resources as a condition for receiving funds. Alternatively, Congress could direct HUD to develop a formula that accounts for the housing needs of both homeowners and renters. Such a formula could be used by states to determine the proportions of their disaster CDBG funds that should be used for housing, specifically rental housing. Further, the formula could also reflect the anticipated production levels of other programs that provide permanent housing assistance, such as the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program.
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Since 1993, Congress has appropriated Community Development Block-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding in the wake of numerous presidentially-declared disasters, including, most recently, $2.431 billion in Public Law 116-20, the majority of which amount is for disasters that occurred in 2018 and 2019. Similar to previous CDBG-DR appropriations, as of August 26, 2020, the most recent the CDBG-DR appropriation in Public Law 116-20, enacted June 6, 2019, neither requires states to demonstrate to HUD that they adequately addressed the needs of both homeowners and renters nor, alternatively, directs HUD to develop a formula that accounts for the housing needs of both homeowners and renters. The CARES Act (enacted on March 27, 2020), P.L. 116-136, Division B, entitled "'Emergency Appropriations for Coronavirus Health Response and Agency Operations,'' appropriated $5 billion for the "Community Development Fund" but it was "to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus."

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